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Thursday, August 04, 2016

Day 4 - London - Bletchley Park - Alan Turing

This is the Bombe. That is the name of the computer
that Alan Turing designed to break the
Nazi Enigma code
Alan Turing - The Father of
Moden Computing

This old mansion was the estate before Bletchley Park
This blue sign is on Alan Turing's house

After watching the movie - The Imitation Game - about Alan Turing - and the Netflix series about Bletchley Park - this was one of our top destinations on this trip to London. 

For 6 summers - Lulu taught a course in London for Florida State University. We liked coming here so much - that this year we decided to come over on our own dime. I wanted Lulu to experience England without the obligations of teaching a class. She has 14 days times 24 hours to enjoy her country of ancestory. 

We took the train from Euston Station to Bletchley. You can walk from the train station to Bletchley Park. On the back of our train ticket was a two for one admission coupon to Bletchley Park. The gardens of the park are pretty. They are restoring many of the buildings that sat dormant for 50 years. We had lunch in one of the old huts. The original estate mansion has been restored. 

For the past 50 years - very little has been said about Bletchley Park and Alan Turing. It was a secret area that the government just kept to themselves. Now it has been exposed for all to see. 

Bletchley Park was an estate about 50 miles northwest of England. It was selected to be the secret enclave of codebreakers during World War II. It is on the Varsity train line exactly half way between Oxford and Cambridge - where many of the codebreakers were recruited. From 1939 to 1945 - about 9000 codebreakers worked there in 3 shifts a day - 8 to 4 - 4 to 12 - 12 to 8. 80% of the workers were women. They were recruited in novel ways - like having crossword puzzles in the newspaper for prizes. The winners were then vetted and offered jobs. 

Germany used coding machines - Enigma and Lorenz - come to mind. Every ship - submarine - commander - etc - had one of the machines. Typed into one end was a message - out of the other end of the machine came gibberish. This was then sent via radio and Morse code. At the other end - the machine was used to translate the messages. There were several code wheels on the machines that had to be turned and changed daily to change the code. The possibilities for changes were in the trillions. 

Messages were brought to Bletchley Park all around the clock. In many cases - messages were sent with false information to see if the enemy was following. An example of this was for the invasion of Europe. England send false messages saying they were going to attack Europe at Calais. Hitler was so convinced that the Allies were going to attack at Calais - that he refused to believe Normany was being invaded even after the attack began. 

Alan Turing was the leader in designing the code breaking equipment. While doing this he essentially built the world's first digital computer. His plans and format are used today in all modern computers. Experts say that his efforts easily shortened the war by 4 years - saving millions of lives. 

After the war - he was given the OBE award - Order of the British Empire - for his service. Ironically they did not publicize it due to secrecy. Turing was gay. A few years later he was convicted of homosexuality - a crime in England in the 1950s. Instead of a jail sentence - he chose chemical castration. He died a broken man. Some say he committed suicide - others say the government murdered him. Ironically - Turing loved the fairy tale - Snow White - and next to his dead body was an apple with a bite out of it. Some people like to say that Apple Computer used the logo of an apple with a bite out of it to honor Alan Turning. In 2009 - the Prime Minister officially apologized to a dead Alan Turning. 

Bletchley was populated mostly by women - housewives - college students. They were called WRENS - women's royal naval service. Ironically - they were nowhere near the ocean. When the war was over - the ladies were given screwdrivers - pliers - solder irons - and told to completely disassemble all the code machines. They were also told to keep their mouths shut - and they did. 

Motorcycles were used to deliver
messages to Bletchley Park 
This was a radio used to send messages in code

The national radio centre is here

One of the many Bletchley huts

This is the Nazi Enigma code machine

Salte statue of Alan Turning

We have very few personal items of
Alan Turing - his Teddy Bear

Headquarters was in mansion

Lulu in Bletchley Park library

Lulu in Bletchley Park Library

Drawing room of mansion at Bletchley

Winston Churchill

The Codebreakers site

Halfway between Oxford and Cambridge 

Bletchley Park 

Home of the Modern Computer

The Nazi Lorenz Code Machine

The gate to Bletchley Park
Codebreaker Site

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